G.I. Jobs Virtual Job Fair   |   June 27

Virtual Job Fair   |   June 27

Providing Opportunities

Haywood Vocational Opportunities staff

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, Haywood Vocational Opportunities (HVO) operates as a not-for-profit, social enterprise organization.

HVO, which manufactures disposable healthcare products, provides vocational training and employment opportunities to adults with disadvantages and disabilities.


But that’s not what earned HVO the top spot in the Military Friendly® Employers Government/Nonprofit category. The company also provides opportunities to America’s veterans.


“As a veteran of almost 40 years of service and two deployments to Iraq, I appreciate having an employer like HVO that is supportive of my military obligations and appreciative of my service. The management has always made a point of coming around and thanking each of us vets personally on Veteran’s Day, and that means a lot to us. HVO has earned the designation as a Military Friendly® Employer, and I’m proud that it has been recognized as the best in its category.”
–Eric Howell, Army National Guard officer, Converting Operator, HVO

Howell is hardly the only one who is proud of HVO’s top-ranked status.


“It is a prestigious honor to be recognized as the No. 1 Military Friendly® Employer in the Government/Nonprofit category. The greatest sacrifice that a person can make is to willingly lay down their life for the benefit of their country. As an employer, I am honored that our company can provide employment opportunities to those individuals that have served and supported our great country.”
–Audrey Gaddis, President, HVO

HVO was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, despite being a healthcare product supplier that partnered with another company this summer to produce PPE.


“Since the onset of COVID-19 and the abrupt closing and basically shutting down of North Carolina and other states in March we have struggled like so many other employers to try and adapt and diversify our manufacturing products to adapt to the current situation.”
–Samuel Ball, Army veteran, Veteran, Innovations & Community Resource Facilitator, HVO

Hiring veterans pays off during difficult times, Ball said.

“As a US Army veteran, I know we are trained to adapt and overcome anything that stands in our way. This pandemic is no different to us, just a different type advisory. Veterans of all branches of service know what must be done to continue moving forward and that is just what veterans do.”
–Samuel Ball, Army veteran, Veteran, Innovations & Community Resource Facilitator, HVO


G.I. Jobs Virtual Career Expo



Q&A With an HVO Veteran


Eric Howell
Haywood Vocational Opportunities (HVO)
Waynesville, N.C.

Age: 57

Post-secondary education:

  • Bachelor’s degree, history, Western Carolina University, 1985

Military service: Lieutenant Colonel (O-5), Army National Guard

MOS: Armor

Hometown: Clyde, N.C.

Why did you enlist in the military?
I joined the military because I have been fascinated with tanks and other armored vehicles as long as I can remember. My parents took me to the Patton Museum of Armor and Cavalry at Fort Knox when I was a kid, and I decided then that I wanted to be a tanker. I enlisted in the National Guard after high school and enrolled in ROTC in college to earn a commission as an officer. I served in a variety of jobs over the years and eventually achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel.

What was your exit plan?
My intention has always been to stay in the Army until I reached retirement age, which for the National Guard is age 60. I served for 28 years as an officer until I reached my Mandatory Removal Date as an officer, then resigned my commission and reverted to an enlisted soldier to stay in until age 60. I currently serve as a gunner on an M1 Abrams Tank in a National Guard Armored Cavalry unit.

How did you find this position?
I applied with HVO after I returned from my second tour in Iraq in 2010 and was hired in early 2011. The company was recommended to me by one of my cousins (also a veteran) who worked in the maintenance department. I was assigned to the converting department as a small sheeter operator. The small sheeter cuts and stacks drapes of various dimensions from rolls of material. These drapes are then turned into finished products in other departments. I liked operating the machine, so I stuck with it. I like working in a place that’s clean and climate controlled, having worked outdoors in other jobs for many years.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your job?
COVID-19 has impacted the company and my job quite a bit, though we’ve kept things going the entire time. We’ve had to make a lot of adjustments in how we operate to prevent transmission of the virus. We all look forward to getting back to some semblance of normal.


You can find this article, as well as all 240 2021 Military Friendly® Employers in the December 2020 issue of G.I. Jobs magazine. READ HERE




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G.I. Jobs Virtual Career Expo

Providing Opportunities
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Providing Opportunities
HVO, which manufactures disposable healthcare products, provides vocational training and employment opportunities to adults with disadvantages and disabilities.
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G.I. Jobs
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